“‘The worst thing about a ‘concept,” [chef Jason] Vincent said, ‘is when you come up with a good idea (for a dish) and you either have to retrofit it into the concept, or work outside the concept. And then, what’s the point?’” With that in mind, Phil Vettel embraces the eclecticism at Giant: “Beyond their playful, tradition-snubbing instincts, Lustbader and Vincent crank out plates that are all about flavor — generally, layers of them. Sweet-and-sour eggplant is loaded up with so many goodies (pancetta, cashews, fried wild rice and puffy pita rounds) that the nominal star of the plate is hidden from view, but dig around, and you’ll be happy. Niblets of sweet corn with peanuts and mint are jazzed up with Thai chili sauce; charred broccoli sits above a lemon-accented yogurt sauce ringed with bright chili oil.”



You can just about guess what some reviewers will review each week based on timing—wait about two months after opening. Then there’s the increasingly unpredictable choices of Michael Nagrant, who this week in Redeye reviews budget sushi at Lawrence Fish Market: “Sushi is the gun-to-my-head desert island meal. I’ll take the best marbled and jewel-pink toro over a bone-in ribeye or foie gras any day. But I’m also not Taylor Swift-rich. Rare is the occasion that even mediocre takeout sushi for two doesn’t require a crisp $50 bill. That is, until I found Lawrence Fish Market in Albany Park a few years ago, which offers nine $1 sushi options. They also have a $2.50 California roll and lots of $5 maki options.”


Well, not exactly—The Dearborn, like the other Lawless family restaurants, precisely calibrates where business dining is, 2016: “The light-touch burrata appetizer ($16), pairing the cheese with in-season beets and tomatoes, inflects a Japanese accent with shiso miniribbons and a miso vinaigrette. The onion panino ($14) riffs on a French dip, basking by a pool of shiitake-onion broth for dunking, and it’s accurately named, chastising those of us who expected a kind of grilled cheese adorned with onion instead of the other way around. Dry-aged duck breast ($26), ordered from the high rollers’ menu box, tastes densely ducky and works swimmingly with the subtly sweet, unsubtly rich uni butter ($4 more).” (Crain’s)


Mike Sula talks to Fat Rice’s Abe Conlon about the restaurant’s new cookbook-slash-comic book: “Conlon’s concern is not with the egg tarts, pork chop sandwiches, and African chicken that most tourists associate with Macanese cuisine (though there are recipes for the latter two in the book), nor with the Chinese food that predominates, but with the homey, traditional cozinha Macaista, prepared in homes, community centers, and a handful of restaurants. ‘I’m just trying to cook like grandma,’ he says. ‘That’s it. That’s the whole goal.’” (Reader)


Mike Sula noted what I did about Momo, the Nepalese dumpling and chai place: “The real downside is the wrappers. Nearly every dumpling I moved toward my mouth ruptured, spilling its contents onto the plate, and necessitating remediation by spoon.” Yeah, they need to work on those, but in the meantime, the chai is eye-opening, Sula says: “They’re presenting an almost dizzying variety of ways to drink it. There are three base teas—black, green, and rooibos—to be blended with a choice of whole, skim, almond, or coconut milk, and then different chai blends, from the relatively traditional masala, redolent of warming spices, and spicy masala, tasting of gingersnap, to more intercontinental experiments, such as dark chocolate-spearmint and caramel-sea salt, to mixes like fresh turmeric curry and black cardamom with purported Ayurvedic applications.” (Reader)


Chicago food trucks got the expected result of the ABC 7/Sun-Times investigation of food truck regulation violations— Mayor Emanuel assured upscale brick and mortar restaurant owners that he’d crack down on their $7 lobster dog competition. Because there’s too much small business in Chicago. (Sun-Times)


A Facebook post from a restaurateur alerted us to the fact that Time Out Chicago is giving out awards for Recommended Restaurants. Nothing against the restaurant involved (far from it), but note that Time Out Chicago hasn’t reviewed any restaurant since mid-July and only three since April. So who precisely is recommending these things on behalf of a magazine that publishes four times a year at most, mainly exists to throw events, and hasn’t reviewed the restaurant in question since 2012 (in a review no longer available on the site?) This is just one example of an increasing problem for food media—the growth in fake food media, which gives awards and names top 10 lists, and gets passed around on social media, not only with none of the ethical standards of traditional media… but with pretty much nobody at all behind it.


What’s with the all you can eat fad? Eataly did it with pizza and now Furious Spoon is doing it with ramen—neither of which strikes as a food you could ever eat enough of to make it worth the price. More than that, why do pretty respectable kinds of food suddenly feel the need to go all Old Country Buffet? Here’s advice that’s good for you and good for restaurants—order what you plan to eat, and that’s enough. Or be a real pig, and go to Cochon 555. (Links all go to Chicagoist, though these have had coverage all over.)


Logan Square’s list of dive bars gets one shorter with the news that the Two-Way will be taken over by the Furious Spoon crew. (Tribune)


“’I’m looking for places that I can be enthusiastic about. Like a golden retriever, I would like to drop a ball at the feet of the reader every week and say, ‘Here!’’’ That’s Pete Wells of the New York Times, in a profile in the New Yorker, which is especially good at conveying how a restaurant reacts when they’ve ID’d a critic, and the politics of what you choose to cover—or not: “A disastrous restaurant is newsworthy only if it has a pedigree or commercial might. The mom-and-pop catastrophe can be overlooked… This reasoning seems civil, though, as Wells acknowledged, it means that his pans focus disproportionately on restaurants that have corporate siblings. Indeed, hype is often his direct or indirect subject.”

Still, it’s hard to read the piece and not feel that the whole business of reviewing in New York is too incestuous and takes itself way too seriously—the account of deciding how many stars to put on Wells’ Per Se slam reads like the House of Windsor deciding on the precise protocols for the funeral of a divorced princess.


If you read Fooditor’s piece on Giant, this piece about work-life balance in the trade publication FSR won’t be exactly new, but it’s always good to hear from Jason Vincent.


Best known to the press for Wiener’s Circle, but also co-owner of Red Hot Ranch and 35th Street Red Hots, both makers of classic Chicago dogs. He was 60.